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Full text of "A search in secret Egypt"

154             A SEARCH IN SECRET EGYPT
get my next order. And when I left the restaurant he bade me farewell with a simple "May God preserve you/'
One can only understand the religion of Islam when it is thus made manifest, put into action and practice. I remember travelling on the railway line that links Cairo to the port of Suez anaarriving at a wayside station. As I thrust my head out of the window to check my whereabouts I noticed a humbly clad workman, one of a gang of labourers working on the line, detach himself from the group with a chant from the Quran on his lips and touch the ground with his forehead. He settled down at prayer on the sandy soil only a few inches away from the steel rails. His work was important for it gave him bread; but not so important that he could afford to forget his duty to Allah. I studied his face and found it the face of a man who lived by the light of conscience; who had attained some sort of inner peace, common labourer though he was.
1 walked, at noon, into one of those cafes which abound in Cairo, for a pot of tea and a couple of Egyptian cakes. Whilst I stirred the cubical sugar to assist its dissolution in the pleasant brown infusion, the cafe owner dropped to the floor and began his midday prayer. The latter was almost a silent one, whispered to himself alone; or rather, to Allah. I could not but admire the fervour he showed, and I could not but respect the wisdom of the Prophet Muhammed for so deftly teaching his followers to mingle the life of religious devotion with the life of the busy world. I could not but contrast the practical value of Islam with the less apparent value of those far Eastern faiths which I knew so well, which seek too often to separate the wordly life from the spiritual life into watertight compartments.
These are but four cases out of many; four cases which showed me what Islam meant to the poor and humble, to the illiterate and uneducated, and to the so-called ignorant classes. What did it mean to the middle and upper classes? As far as I could discern it meant a faith less strongly held, because the onset of Western scientific education had weakened the bases of religion here as in every other Oriental land which it had touched I make no criticism, but merely note the fact as an inevitable phenomenon, because I firmly believe that both faith and science are necessary to life. The broader minds among the Muhammedans are now arriving at the same conclusion. They see that sooner or later Islam must succumb